Feb 13, 2012

This Is Utterly Ridiculous…I Can’t Even.

Before you read this post: I wrote this post based entirely on ethics--so NO, these are not hard facts. I am a teenage blogger with little to no knowledge of what is legal and what is not and have recently learned what "For Hire" is. You'll find many opinions here because this is not a formal article.

I do not appreciate the numerous articles/comments I've read (outside of this site) that have attacked me for using big font, being a fan of L.J's work, and for being a female just to name a few. Not to mention the ugly name calling. I don't see anything written in my post that would deserve any of that. I am mostly giving information--please don't bash me for it. I consider that bullying.

 ~ ~ ~

I’m probably really late with learning about this but I’m extremely outraged because this happened to one of my all time favorite authors. If it wasn’t for her and her incredibly amazing books I probably would never have loved reading YA novels nearly as much as I do today.

Hit TV series The Vampire Diaries

So to put it simply L.J Smith (author of Vampire Diaries, the Night World, and the Secret Circle) got fired by HarperCollins from writing her own books. Everything she’s written now belongs entirely to them and they can do whatever they want with it; while she has no say at all. Instead, from now on a ghostwriter will be continuing the Vampire Diaries series under her name. I mean, how messed up is that? She isn’t allowed to write another word of a series that belongs to her, a series that she has spent years writing and creating and putting her heart into because Harper suddenly decided they don’t want her to write anymore. And now a random ghostwriter (who’s skills and voice could never even remotely live up to L.J’s) is taking over.

Now, let’s consider a few things here:
a) L.J Smith has been working on this series for years (the V.D series was created in the 1990s)
b) She has all the outlines, and knows all the major plot details
c) She knows all the characters inside and out
d) And of course the biggest part in all this—her voice. A writer's voice is unique. It CAN NOT be copied by another person. I don’t know where Harper gets off saying another writer can better do L.J Smith’s voice when he/she is NOT L.J Smith.
I had no idea that these type of things can happen to a published author. So to those of you who are going to be published or hope to be published one day—read everything in the contract and be extra alert. Even if the publisher has a good name/reputation don’t let them fool you into thinking everything’s fine and dandy where legal terms are involved. Stay on top of things and make sure you are informed on everything that's going on. That means keeping close tabs and getting constant updates from your agent.
To get a better idea of what exactly is going on here are parts of a letter from L.J Smith about this issue:
The Secret Circle, also a TV series
 

“To put it briefly, I’ve been fired from writing the Vampire Diaries. And I’ve been fighting and fighting this since last fall, but there is absolutely no recourse. Midnight is the last L. J. Smith book in the Vampire Diaries series….

….It probably sounds completely impossible to say that I am fired from writing my own books. But the truth is that they’re not mine, even though I write every word…

…A book packager sells books, already made with covers and all, to publishers, like HarperCollins—my publisher for The Vampire Diaries and The Secret Circle. And both these series were written “for hire” which means that the book packager owns the books the author produces. Although I didn’t even understand what “for hire” meant back in 1990, when I agreed to write books for them, I found out eventually, to my horror and dismay. It means that even though I have written the entire series, I don’t own anything about The Vampire Diaries. And from now on, the books will be written by an anonymous ghostwriter, just as Stefan’s Diaries are. It will say “Created by L. J. Smith” on the cover, but I am not allowed even to change a word in the ghostwriter’s book….

…So last fall when I gave them the book Phantom, they didn’t bother to give me edits. Instead, I was given a letter addressed to the ghostwriter by name, telling her to completely rewrite my book. They wouldn’t even listen when I pleaded and promised to do Phantom as they required. The simply took the series and gave it to the ghostwriter . . . to write not only The Hunters trilogy, but whatever comes after that….

…They have always tried to minimize my participation in The Vampire Diaries. On the very first original books in 1990 my name was almost invisible on the cover. And now they have my manuscript of Phantom, and the book the ghostwriter writes from it may even sound like I wrote it in places, because they have the right to use my work as they see fit. But the book after that … that will be pure ghostwriter. I would guess that they think you readers won’t see or care about the difference in writing styles and skills….

….I don’t know how Phantom will turn out, with a blend of my manuscript and the complete rewriting of it by the ghostwriter. But I dread it, and even more do I dread what the next books will be like. I’ve worked so hard to make Vampire Diaries a good series, only to have the unthinkable happen to me…."
>> To read the full letter from L.J Smith or learn more about this go here, google it, or visit her website.

>>To read more about For Hire and contracts scroll down to read the information many of the commentors posted about below.


What are your thoughts on this dillema? Would you be okay if a ghostwriter took your place (without your consent) and continued a series that you wrote? Leave a comment, discussions are welcome.  
Share/Bookmark

131 comments:

  1. I would hate for someone else to start writing my series, not because of the money but because it's your story.

    Sounds like a good argument for Indie publishing.

    Wagging Tales

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's so scary what can happen. I'm sure she thought she was getting the break of a lifetime when she started writing VD, and now it's breaking her heart. And for what? Probably because she asked for a bigger share of the profits from the series she created?

    ReplyDelete
  3. @Charmaine - I completely agree with you! As a writer I would not like for someone to continue the series that I've spent years planning simply because it's MY story. It makes sense that if it belongs to you that you should be the one to finish it. I don't think a random ghostwriter (who is probably only in it for the money) will be able to adequately write my story the way I want it to be written.

    ReplyDelete
  4. @ Jessi - It had nothing to do with money actually. It's just that she wasn't taking the plot in the same direction that Harper wanted it to go in.

    Read for more info:

    "So last fall when I gave them the book Phantom, they didn’t bother to give me edits. Instead, I was given a letter addressed to the ghostwriter by name, telling her to completely rewrite my book. They wouldn’t even listen when I pleaded and promised to do Phantom as they required. The simply took the series and gave it to the ghostwriter . . . to write not only The Hunters trilogy, but whatever comes after that."

    -L.J Smith

    ReplyDelete
  5. Continued from previous by L.J Smith:

    "They have always tried to minimize my participation in The Vampire Diaries. On the very first original books in 1990 my name was almost invisible on the cover. And now they have my manuscript of Phantom, and the book the ghostwriter writes from it may even sound like I wrote it in places, because they have the right to use my work as they see fit. But the book after that … that will be pure ghostwriter. I would guess that they think you readers won’t see or care about the difference in writing styles and skills."

    ReplyDelete
  6. This is awful. What a cautionary tale for any writer.

    ReplyDelete
  7. This really makes me angry! I have loved the Vampire Diaries and read all of the books "LJ Smith" has written. I haven't read any of the new ones and now that I see this I don't think I will. How can someone take the world that she made and give it to someone else!!!! This is ridiculous, The Ghostwriter will never be as good as LJ Smith because she CREATED these wonderful worlds! For goodness sakes they are both TV shows so she must have been doing EVERYTHING right. Sorry for my vent but I am a big LJ Smith fan period, she is a very talented author and I HATE that this happened to her. It's just wrong.

    ReplyDelete
  8. @Kayla - That exactly how I feel! It feels so wrong because this ghostwriter is not only continuing the series but she is TAKING one of L.J's manuscripts (Phantom) and rewriting the whole thing! Do you know how utterly horrible that is? It's like taking everything that's good in her novel and squeezing it dry. And that sleezy ghostwriter who is getting paid to do this knows exactly what she's doing. I don't want to read a book by a person like that. It makes me sick just thinking about it. Unless L.J is the real writer this series will be basically dead to me, minus the ones that she actually wrote.

    What exactly was Harper thinking? *shakes head in dissapointment*

    ReplyDelete
  9. This is the problem with writing for hire. You don't own anything, not even your own words. It's crazy that this can happen and I feel for LJ Smith.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I feel so sad for LJ Smith. She deserves to be treated better than that. Without her, they wouldn't even have The Vampire Diaries or any of her other fantastic novels. I hope she can find a new publisher who will treat her well.

    ReplyDelete
  11. It sounds like she got a bad contract! It is SOOOO important to read the fine print in a contract, and not be intimidated out of asking questions and making certain requests. In fact, these days, I would run a contract by a literary lawyer before signing these days.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I heard about this a long time ago, but I still think its HORRIBLE. Its her story, she should get to work on it. I don't know what I'd do if this ever happened to me...I'd probably cry a good bit, try to sue, and then rant and try to publish something along the same lines. I don't know!

    ReplyDelete
  13. That is JUST terrible! :( I don't know what I'd do. I've heard people talk about having a ghostwriter finish the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series (was originally supposed to be 7 books, I believe) and even though the writer DIED--I'm still unsure that anyone should ever take over someone else's writing.


    Except maybe Peter Pan--only Peter Pan. (Plus the author IS dead..)

    It's just NOT the same! Gosh.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I also wonder one more thing---In the 1990's did she HAVE an agent? She said she didn't know what "For hire" meant. Sounds like a bad deal...a deal I HIGHLY doubt an agent would allow. So that begs the question did you go in blindly? If so--this just emphasizes the importance of an agent. They know how to play hardball.

    ReplyDelete
  15. She did have an agent—just not a very good one. If you click on the first link you can find out more about that. And yes, it is terrible. I think this is really just a reminder of how careful we have to be when it comes to the fine print. Things like this can happen to just about anyone if they are unaware or misinformed.

    ReplyDelete
  16. man, this is terribly sad. And I hate to hear this happening to her. I suppose there's a lesson there for us all--be careful what you're signing. Right? I guess the up-side is she still gets to call it hers. I mean, at least she's still recognized as the creator. That's something...? :o\

    ReplyDelete
  17. This is horrible! If I was her, the first thing I would do is fire the agent.

    This is her story.

    I will personally not be reading anything else that comes in the series.

    I've never liked HarperCollins. They are the slimy Rupert Murdochs (I bet you they're owned by him. - Yes they are btw)of the publishing world. But this is a new low for HarperCollins. I will never buy a book from them again.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Wow. Just...wow. So sad. I didn't realize writers can be "for hire" in that way and not keep the copyright. Craziness. Yet another reason to watch what we sign (or better yet, have a professional agent or attorney watch what we sign.) Scary stuff.

    ReplyDelete
  19. So sorry to hear about this for LJ! Her VD books are so good and fun and clearly they were well-loved by many many readers. I wrote 2 books for hire and they were never pubbed b/c the publisher went out of business. 2 fun YA books, part of a fun series- and I can't do anything with them! It is the chance you take when writing as a hired hand but it still sucks (no Vampire pun intended!).

    ReplyDelete
  20. Sounds like a good reason for any fans of the series to boycott anything else going forward, and be very vocal about it, so that the publisher is made aware.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Sounds like a good reason for anyone who doesn't like corporate shenanigans to boycott the publisher's entire catalog, regardless of whether or not you care about that particular series.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I think that there are a lot of knee-jerk reactions going on here.

    This contract type is very common, and it is most often seen in movie / comics / gaming type environments, but it is also done for written contracts.

    I've worked as a freelance writer for many years, and I have encountered this contract type fairly frequently. It is the responsibility of the author to understand what s/he is signing away. She didn't do her homework, she didn't do any research, and she demonstrated a lack of basic business knowledge in signing that contract.

    Harper Collins didn't do anything wrong. They wanted a certain type of work to build a brand for themselves. The author willingly agreed to this. The author picked a bad agent desiring to have an agent, didn't bother to learn how to protect herself, and is now upset because her glass ceiling shattered.

    Self-published and independents can fall prey to these contracts just as easily as traditional authors, too... especially if a business comes calling wanting to turn their book into a movie or a game.

    The lesson here is... don't sign papers unless you fully understand what you're getting into. LJ didn't.

    ReplyDelete
  23. A sad reminder never to sign a contract without showing it to a lawyer. If she wasn't happy with this arrangement, she shouldn't have agreed to work for hire.

    ReplyDelete
  24. That's horrible. I can't imagine having created a vivid world and suddenly it's no longer your sandbox to play in.

    The only thing I can hope is that 1) fans of the series stop supporting the non-LJ books and 2) her next creation goes best seller so maybe Harper Collins has to eat its shorts.

    ReplyDelete
  25. After reading this, I was thinking how L.J. Smith could easily write about other supernatural characters in old legends besides vampires, such as vila, rusalka, and naiads, and so I was inspired to write this scene as part of my tale about Aristoteles in my epic tale about scientists.

    Kalloneis Lake Naiad
    http://open.salon.com/blog/surazeus/2012/02/14/kalloneis_lake_naiad

    ReplyDelete
  26. This is yet one more reason I want to stay indie! This is horrible!

    ReplyDelete
  27. I'd like to agree with RJ above - it sounds like a lot of people are jumping on publishers in general, and HarperCollins in particular, over this issue.

    You shouldn't.

    HarperCollins didn't "fire" LJ Smith; the book packager that she worked for did. I'm not saying that's a good decision, or a correct one, but that's what book packagers do. They hire someone to write a book or a series - usually based on THEIR concept, although not in this case - and they specifically own the rights to the series, the concept, everything. It sounds like LJ signed a really restrictive contract with the packager, which has now decided that it wants to take the series (which it owns) and make more money off it by hiring someone to expand it on the cheap.

    It's a low blow, but they're legally entitled to do it.

    HarperCollins has no involvement in all that. They just buy the package - the series, characters, books, etc. - presented to them by the packager. The publisher didn't fire LJ, or have anything to do with this. In fact, it's even possible that if they don't like the way the series changes with the ghostwriter doing it, they may offer LJ a contract directly, to publish with them as a partner instead of working for the packager.

    Please, guys, don't jump on the publisher or automatically assume that publishers are evil because of this. It's the packager that's dealing a low blow, and even that's legit...just a lousy thing to do to someone.

    Poor LJ. I hope she gets a great publishing deal out of this, and one that lets her retain her IP this time.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Look back at the V.C. Andrews books. I realize Ms. Andrews died but you can tell exactly where her "writing" was taken over by someone else. The books written after her death always seemed very cheap and amatuerish...even to a high school girl. It's really too bad this had to happen here.

    ReplyDelete
  29. *sigh*

    It's *Work For Hire*. She was playing in someone else's sandbox. They own the rights, and paid her a fee to write books set in *their* world. While you may identify the books with her voice, they were never *her* books to begin with. The series belongs to someone else.

    This is common practice in publishing. Consider the folks who write the Star Trek tie-in novels for Simon and Schuster's Pocket Books line. Those are work for hire. Paramount owns the rights to Star Trek, and has final say over the books. The folks writing those books know what the deal is and take it, because they are being paid an amount they'll accept to do the work. When you do Work For Hire, you serve at the pleasure of the contractor, and they can decide to stop using you at any time. You know that going in, or *should*.

    The sad part here is that LJ didn't know what Work For Hire was when she signed the deal. That was an error. It is imperative that you understand the contract before signing it, and if you don't understand, you don't sign. There are plenty of folks who can give advice if asked, and LJ failed by *not* asking.

    This is not about HarperCollins as a publisher, or the packager that sold the books to HarperCollins. This is about author ignorance. It's an sad mistake to make, and I'm sorry for LJ, but it should be an object lesson for anyone else contemplating writing for a living. It's a *business*, and you must understand the business aspects as well as the creative parts, or you'll fail if you try it.

    ReplyDelete
  30. NEVER sign the contract until your lawyer has read it. If you do not understand EVERY SINGLE WORD, and how it binds you, your actions, and your creations, DO NOT SIGN IT. Your investment of a few hundred dollars, even a thousand dollars, on an attorney that knows their business, and can explain the contract to you word by word, can potentially save you millions in the long run.

    The creator of Ghost Rider lost everything, because he did the work "for hire". Same for a lot of the great comic artists and writers. It's all too common in publishing, and even more common in software. They aren't publishing your work, they're buying it outright, and you no longer own it at all, in any way. You got your money, you walk away, they do whatever they want -- and make all the big money if there is any.

    You see all the big money the Superman franchise has made? The creators have seen maybe a cracker's worth of all those billions in revenue over the decades...because they sold it outright, and didn't realize what they were doing.

    Get a lawyer. Understand what you're signing. The publishers are in it for THEIR money, not yours.

    ReplyDelete
  31. @DMcCunny - Thanks for sharing. I think this whole incident emphasizes the importance of knowing what you're getting into legally.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Ezmireld:

    This post gave me so much to think about that I'm posting 2 blogs about it and other blogs and news items I found around and about the Web today, that all relate.

    My post with a link to your blog will go up April 10, 2012 at
    http://www.aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/

    And part 2 of that post will go up April 17th (it's a co-blog of 6 or 7 widely published Alien Romance writers, and I'm assigned to post on Tuesdays).

    http://www.aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2012/02/believing-in-happily-ever-after-part-5.html

    Is my post for today's entry, and the one about your post will be Part 6 and Part 7 in that series.

    Note that today a Guest Blog I did has been posted at
    http://madisonwoods.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/genre-tuesday-guest-post-from-jaqueline-lichtenberg-part-1/

    Part 2 of that goes up this coming Thursday, Feb 16, 2012.

    The subject there is Genre and breaking into publishing.

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg
    http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com
    http://astore.amazon.com/simegen-20

    ReplyDelete
  33. Besides the part of taking away a series she's worked so hard on, this also really got to me:

    They wouldn’t even listen when I pleaded and promised to do Phantom as they required.

    She has to BEG the publisher? WTF?

    Like most publishers know any better.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Sucks, but hasn't your publisher been paying you more than a decent wage for years now?

    That's the price you pay for security, regardless of the work you put in.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @TDHurst - Not really. L J took a ten year hiatus in which she wasnt getting paid.

      Delete
  35. Everyone could do a social networking bomb and post your displeasure:

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Harper-Collins-Publishers/111887218829340

    https://plus.google.com/u/0/110002499224245571524/posts

    @HarperCollins

    This has worked great before. Always tell a company you are pissed at them.

    ReplyDelete
  36. All of this happened last year, February 2011. Books not authored by L.J. Smith (but bearing the "created by L.J. Smith" line on the covers) have already been issued. I'm curious why this is just causing a stir here now...

    Here is an interview from last May with L.J. Smith:

    http://bookalicio.us/2011/05/interview-with-l-j-smith-part-duex/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @baslow - a lot of us just found out about this recently. I read through the article and it explained a lot. Thanks for sharing. It turns out LJ knows the ghostwriter and she actually is only in it for the money. My assumptions about her were correct. :/

      Delete
  37. SO she was for HIRE, they made a brand based on her name and her ideas and it's too bad she wasn't able to re-negotiate that years ago. I can understand how they own the brand to the series but how on earth can they still user her NAME if she didn't write it?? thats HER name. How awful 100% disgusting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know. The contract is only meant for the book--not her name. I don't know why they're still using it for. I guess having her name on it is a selling point for the book. Like I said this whole thing is ridiculous and unfair to LJ and her readers.

      And to learn that the ghostwriter really is in it entirely for the money (from the article baslow linked) makes me never want to read the Phantom books even more. :/

      Delete
  38. That sucks, but what really gets me is that they can continue to use her name as the author for future ghostwritten books. If you don't own your own name, what can you own?

    ReplyDelete
  39. And they call us pirates...

    ReplyDelete
  40. Robert J. Sawer had a great deal to say on this subject at last year's Keycon (Winnipeg - Victoria Day Long Weekend). It boiled down to:

    1) ALWAYS write in your own world, Never combine or work for hire.

    2) Write Quality, all of his 18 books are still in print. A Prolific writer with 100 books published has 10 - 14 in print at any time.

    The question I have is can LJ Smith publish under her own name or does she now have to publish under a pen name because having gotten so much from the book packager they've 'taken' her name too? I could easily see this, because if she publishes something else YA 'her' readers will pick it - and not the Vampire Diary, up leaving the book packager's to get a return...

    Yours

    Ed Buchan
    Harshest Journey in Ace's Slush Pile.

    ReplyDelete
  41. One more reason to have a lawyer read any and all contracts you sign. If you don't fully understand what you're getting into (legally), then don't do it. I feel bad for L.J. Smith on a personal level, but on a professional level...signer beware.

    ReplyDelete
  42. I wonder how HC would feel if every writer bailed on them and chose to do it on their own the CreateSpace.... I am disgusted.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Wow...this is terrible.

    I would hate to have someone take over writing my books...

    I will definitely hire an attorney before I ever sign any contract that I don't understand.

    ReplyDelete
  44. There's a difference between what is LEGAL, and what is ETHICAL in this country. Its very easy to hide behind the letter of the law and say, "well, its her own fault for being naive". Its VERY easy, I can see it above. Personally, I would misplace the .doc file somewhere....like the Pirate Bay, and let they try to prove intent. I guess I can't get too worried about this, because in the end the publishing companies, book packagers, etc. are just slitting their own throats (Ethically, not legally you understand). As more and more authors go Indie, this will happen less and less, although I can see Amazon starting to pull alot of the same crap. Hopefully other alternatives gain traction to keep them honest.

    ReplyDelete
  45. I'm a little surprised at the animosity toward the idea of a ghost writer 'only in it for the money'. Why else would you ghostwrite anything? Ghostwriting: you don't get your name on it and you don't get to admit you wrote it and you're writing what somebody else wants you to write. In exchange, you get to pay your bills.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @Anon 9:53 PM

      The Ghostwriter knows that the author is unwilling to have her series rewritten and she does it anyways. She willingly take her unpublished manuscript and rip it apart to suit the publishers needs. I find that highly unethical and dirty. I'd never take 20 years of hard work away from another person. That's just sick.

      Delete
  46. How terrible for LJS, though a good lesson to us all.

    "The question I have is can LJ Smith publish under her own name or does she now have to publish under a pen name?"(Ed Buchan
    Harshest Journey in Ace's Slush Pile)
    - I'd like to know the answer to this, too.

    ReplyDelete
  47. I can't believe this happened. I'm a writer and I have my own universe with my characters. No one knows them like I do.

    The next Vampire Diaries books won't be the real one. No ones knows exactly what's going on in the character's heads but LJ Smith.

    I am so angry I can't even write paragraphs properly. I mean, this is her world and they can't take that away from her. It's not canon unless Smith says it is.

    She spend so much time on these characters. The story probably changed a million times in her head but the characters didn't. I can't believe they would steal them from her. Because this is basically thief.

    Smith was a new author when she signed the deal and they took advantage of that. I was so revolted because I can somehow relate. If anyone tried to steal my babies, write how the story ends and tell the readers its canon I would cry. You just don't do that.

    As a fellow author I am so disgusted by this I still can't wrap my head around it.

    ReplyDelete
  48. I'm a pro writer. I look at it a little differently:

    If the publisher owns the title, and even the right to use her name, it's because she signed the contract. If she did so without benefit of counsel and didn't know this could happen, it's her own fault.

    Never sign any agreement that you don't understand and agree with. I use a rule of thumb: if the worst scenario under the contract isn't acceptable, don't sign. Renegotiate.

    Often, lawyers in creative agreements are trying to push for the very best terms, and will back away when you object.

    Work For Hire is not an evil thing. Thousands of writers like me have made a good living being hired to Work For Hire. If you have your eyes open going in, it gives you security and good pay.

    The Author should start her own vampire series and publish it on the Kindle to take advantage of her own brand.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @Anon 1:10 AM

      That seems like a possible solution but what about the name issue. Is it possible that they bought her name along with he rights to the series. If she publishes again (especially about vampires) couldn't she get sued for it?

      Delete
  49. This is outrageous. It makes me weep partly because it comes as no real surprise. Whatever happened to loyalty and support ... I know there are those that will say 'you should have known' but how and in any case, just because it's in the small print doesn't make it right. I really sympathise. After spending years trying to get my books published, with a a good and reliable agent, I am going to go the self publish, e route. I wish you lots of work - couldn't you get them on 'restrictive terms'? Though you have probably thought of that already. Clodagh

    ReplyDelete
  50. This is a very scary thought-to have one's creative designs taken from them-Wow!

    ReplyDelete
  51. If she had a standard "work for hire" relationship with her employer and she did the work during working hours then they are completely within their legal rights. This has long been standard practice and she has almost no chance of getting back control of the work via legal channels. Some places I've worked try to claim ownership of everything you do while in their employ and forbid you from working in the same field for two years afterward.

    ReplyDelete
  52. My god, that's awful! I had no idea that could even happen. Terms should be clearer in the contracts for one thing. I can't believe it's happened to L.J.Smith of all people, I was a teenager when the nightworld series was being published and enjoyed it tremendously. Writers need more protection and transparency from their publishers, it's ridiculous

    ReplyDelete
  53. I hope this turn of events soaks into the minds of all aspiring writers. No matter how eager you are to be published, nor how desperate you are for the money, just say no to book packagers. Without writers willing to sign those contracts, book packagers would not exist and would not have the power to do these sorts of things.

    ReplyDelete
  54. Sorry, but you can't write a work-for-hire series for a packager and then act surprised that you don't own the work. That's the contract you signed. I've done it myself and known exactly what I was getting in to.

    I do think that if there's substantial goodwill for LJ Smith then it's foolish of Harper or the packager to make this decision, and it's quite possible it'll blow back on them. If I were at HC (or a competitor) I'd be trying to get her signed up to a proper contract.

    ReplyDelete
  55. "Would you be okay if a ghostwriter took your place (without your consent) and continued a series that you wrote?"

    It was completely with her consent. She consented to the arrangement, and then is now upset when the arrangement is enforced.

    ReplyDelete
  56. Only one thing to say: Always read the fine print, and if you don't get it, ask questions.

    ReplyDelete
  57. This is something I haven't really heard of happening before and yet I'm not surprised at all. Writers and readers should be the focus here and instead Harper is likely making an economic decision that isn't serving anyone but them. Very unfortunate. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  58. I had no idea that these type of things can happen to a published author.

    It happens a lot more than people think. Peter S Beagle lost the rights to The Last Unicorn when the movie was made and has been fighting tooth and nail to get them back since.

    Always have a lawyer read any contract before you sign / agree to anything.

    ReplyDelete
  59. @ baslow -- thank you! (you said:)

    All of this happened last year, February 2011. Books not authored by L.J. Smith (but bearing the "created by L.J. Smith" line on the covers) have already been issued. I'm curious why this is just causing a stir here now...

    Here is an interview from last May with L.J. Smith:

    http://bookalicio.us/2011/05/interview-with-l-j-smith-part-duex/

    ReplyDelete
  60. @anonymous 8:14 PM

    She might have consented to the contract but she was uninformed about the part where she would one day have to relinquish her rights to continue writing the Vampire Diaries series. So, in non-legal terms, no she did not give her consent to this.


    NOTE:

    In case anyone else hasn't noticed, this post was written based on the ethics of the situation, not on the legality of it.

    I am perfectly aware of the fact that it is legal for them to take Smith's series and give it to a ghostwriter to continue. Notice that I talk about the importance of understanding a contract before signing it. If I had not known that Smith's situation was legal I would not have written about understanding contracts.

    ReplyDelete
  61. @Kate says "HarperCollins has no involvement in all that."

    Here is a quote from L.J Smith's invterview with Bookalicio.us

    " I feel that it has, but maybe that’s just because HarperTeen sided so vehemently with Alloy, scaring my agent, so that she told me she was not going to represent me in this matter anymore. I was, very literally, alone surrounded by unfriends." - L.J Smith

    ReplyDelete
  62. Agree this is unfortunate, but no point whining at this stage. Now is the time to start a new series, using everything you learned to blow the old one away. Let it be known that true fans should ignore the old, and follow you to the new...

    ReplyDelete
  63. @Bruce I would agree with you on this but this all happened about a year ago and Lisa is signed under a regular publishing contract with Simon & Schuster. A multitude of her novels (including 3 different series--The Night World, The Forbidden Games, and Dark Visions) have been published by them, and probably a lot more books in the future. I don't see that as whining. She has already taken your advice.

    ReplyDelete
  64. Never Ever Sign a single thing without having an attorney of your choosing go over it with a fine toothed comb and explain it in words you can understand. Hubby is an attorney and he would have told her up front that "work for hire" means you have no expectations of owning anything.

    ReplyDelete
  65. @alex - i think that's what bothers me most about this whole thing. even in high school, thirty years ago, i understood what "work for hire" meant ... there's a definite disconnect in this whole thing somewhere. a big one.

    ReplyDelete
  66. @ Mari Adkins What type of disconnet? What went wrong here is that 20 or so years ago L.J Smith was not completely informed on what 'Working For Hire' meant when she signed the contract and years later it came back to bite her in the butt. Like you, I'm not exactly sure why she didn't know but it's the first question answered in the Q & A that you linked to above.

    ReplyDelete
  67. that she didn't know what work for hire meant. it's a total no-brainer.

    ReplyDelete
  68. I'm just as curious as you are. Maybe she wasn't expecting things to get this bad and decided to take a gamble (just my guess though). I never knew what 'for hire' meant until just recently. But then again, I've never had publishing experience before so I wouldn't know.

    ReplyDelete
  69. we covered stuff like this in creative writing and journalism in both high school and college.

    ReplyDelete
  70. Really? That'll be helful. I haven't taken creative writing yet, but I'm hoping to next year.

    ReplyDelete
  71. well, yeah. you have to be able to distinguish between markets.

    ReplyDelete
  72. That is terrible! As a writer I'm outraged someone could do something like that.

    ReplyDelete
  73. What a nightmare. I have no interest in this series, but as a writer I have a vested interest in going into a contract with a publisher in good faith. What is more important to a writer than to see their craft flourish and find an audience? For Harper-Collins to strip away the creation from its creator sounds horrifying.

    It's easy to blame the victim and tell her—belatedly—she should have read the fine print or gotten some legal recourse to go over the contract initially. Maybe, but when a corporation like Harper-Collins violates the morality of a contract like this, regardless of what's written, they bring a prejudice upon all publishing houses. All new writers have to be on guard and wonder whether some future deal is going to be designed to burglarize their labors.

    I read this post at the same time I'm examining options such as self-publication and e-publication, and a legal nightmare like this makes me think I'd do better to run under my own power and circumvent the publishing houses altogether. If that's how print conducts business, print deserves to get outmoded.

    ReplyDelete
  74. strip away the creation from its creator

    but they didn't. they hired her to do that work.

    ReplyDelete
  75. @Mari I think I'll go visit the Creative Writing teacher at my school and ask her if they include stuff about the market and For Hire in the course.

    ReplyDelete
  76. Whoa, this is insane! I don't like anything vampire-related, but the poor author! I feel so mad right now!

    ReplyDelete
  77. @Ezmirelda it should. i'd be surprised if it didn't.

    ReplyDelete
  78. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  79. Unfortunately a lot of writers end up in this or worse situations from not understanding their contracts. Writing is creative. Selling your writing is a business. As a writer, I feel badly for this writer. As a business person, I wonder why she didn't think it through very carefully before turning over her whole creative world to some company.

    Perhaps something can be done eventually to get some of her rights back.

    ReplyDelete
  80. Sorry but not feeling a lot of sympathy here. This is a subject so old it's collecting a pension and having its birthday announced by Willard Scott. Entering into a contract involving your livelihood is something that should involve a lawyer on your side. You shouldn't be able to graduate high school without knowing this.

    Work for hire is not inherently evil if you enter into it with a clear understanding of what your obligations and rights are. As mentioned, the people who do Star Trek novels crank those out for a set amount. This can be very lucrative as you have so many elements already in place: settings, characters, relationships, etc.

    Some writers can do an enjoyable Trek book in a few weeks and earn enough to sustain them for the rest of the year working on their own material. Or whatever else they want to do. But unless you're Peter David you aren't ever going to get any further rewards. (AFAIK even Peter David just gets a much higher cash fee for his Trek books but several of them have been NYT best sellers, so he is well worth it.)

    Plenty of well established writers got their start on For Hire jobs. When you see some old series like Doc Savage with a zillion entries in the series, all attributed to the same author even though the series started 70 years ago and the original writer died 30 years ago, you might suspect that more than one person is behind that name on the cover.

    ReplyDelete
  81. @epoburs and mari_adkins

    I'm not sure how you two have gotten the assumption that everyone learns about the publishing markets in high school. I surveyed teen bloggers and a few that are in college about whether or not they learned about publishing markets and For Hire in High School and all of them have said no. If you know any teens or high school teachers ask them about it as well. 99% of the time the time the answer will most likely be no as well. Maybe the curriculum was different when you guys were in high school. Or maybe take into consideration that every school district has a different set of things that they teach.

    Saying that we should have not have gotten out of high school without being informed about this is kind of over exaggerating seeing as no one I know in person or on the internet in High School knows anything about this. And I go to one of the best public high schools in America so it's not like we're a school that's out of tune with the rest of the world. I will provide direct quotes from people if you guys need more proof.

    ReplyDelete
  82. I'm not sure how you two have gotten the assumption that everyone learns about the publishing markets in high school

    I never said that everyone should have learned this stuff in high school. I learned this in my writing and journalism classes (in high school and college), and it's something my English teachers did discuss now and then.

    ReplyDelete
  83. @Mari - I only @you to show you what I found out through asking around. I was hoping that they did actually teach about this in HS because it would be so useful.

    @epobirs said that everyone in high school should have learned it or else they should not have been allowed to graduate.

    ReplyDelete
  84. Ohh I see what you mean. The comment mostly applied to epobirs statement about having to know it in order to graduate. In your case I thought you meant "everyone" in the sense of everyone who takes creative writing, which isn't true for my school and many others that I've communicated online with from different schools.

    ReplyDelete
  85. Part 1:

    It is quite unfortunate that the original author is no longer going to be writing this series. As a writer myself, I can imagine how angry she must feel.

    However, I also have some experience working for publishers, so perhaps I can clarify some things.

    Now I can't say for sure what's going on behind the scenes, because I don't know what her contract says or anything, but here are a few possibilities.

    1. HarperCollins may have comissioned LJ to write this series. This means that HC would have come up with the overall idea, possibly some characters and a plot or two, and asked LJ to write it. If this was the case, they will have likely chosen to retain the rights to the series. In this scenario, it's kind of like the Star Wars books where George Lucas is giving others permission to use his stuff, but he still decides who gets to do it.

    2. Your post mentioned book packagers. Book packagers are useful to publishers because it's kind of like they hand this lovely little gift-wrapped box to the publisher. Packagers, as far as I know, always get the copyright from the author, or at the very least get equal rights with the copyright. Now when you write something, you own the copyright and other people can't alter it, publish it, or distribute it without your permission. When you sign away your copyright you're giving someone else the right to do whatever they want with your work. This includes completely rewritting it without your approval, and getting someone else to write it in the first place.


    I pulled up The Awakening on Amazon to have a look at the copyright page, and it states the copyright holder is "Daniel Weiss Associates, Inc. and Lisa Smith". That first part is why LJ is getting the short end of the stick, because she signed away her rights.

    Now most people will have heard about an author selling their book to a publisher, or a publisher buying a book, but that's technically incorrect most of the time. What authors and publishers most often do is license the work. This means you're allowing the publisher to use your material, to reproduce, distribute, and sell it, while it's still yours. You're essentially letting them borrow it. LJ didn't license her work, she sold it, and the moment that happened it wasn't hers any more.

    Yes, as an artist there's a lot about that that sucks. So why would anyone sign away their copyright like that? Several reasons. Sometimes it's because the author has, for example, written some entries for a dictionary, and it wouldn't be practical to let hundreds of contributors keep the rights to such little things, nor do the contributors really care.

    Another reason is similar, but could be for entire chapters or sections; the publisher could prefer to own the copyright because it can be a hassle sorting out royalties when you have 15 authors involved with one title. There's also the possibility the publisher might want to either publish the work abroad, or make a deal with a foreign publisher to let them do this. In this case (particularly in multi-author works) it's easier if the publisher holds all the rights as then they don't have to phone up 15 people and say, "Hey, this guy you've never heard of wants to publish your book in Slovakia, is that ok? This is what they want to pay you. Yes, I know that's less than you make from us, but there are 15 of you, and they have to pay to get it translated, they don't know how well it'll sell, and they've got to make a profit too." One author out of those 15 says know, and both publishers are back to square one. There are ways to simplify this by licensing more rights to the publisher, so it comes down to the publisher looking at how much it will cost them to do it each way.

    ReplyDelete
  86. Part 3:


    Now my advice to you as a young writer: don't sign away your copyright. Once you do that, your work is not yours any more, it's someone else's, and they can do whatever they want with it. Find a good agent, one who is looking out for your best interest, and trust in their advice. If you've been trying and trying and trying and the only way to get your work published is to give someone the copyright, don't. Instead, put that project aside, work on another. Try again with the other project. Maybe go back to the first, see if you can improve it, and try again.

    Getting published is tough, and the amount of rejection you're going to have to deal with will be depressing. But keep at it and don't give up because when you write something that is good you're not only going to find a publisher, you're going to have publishers fighting over you.

    Hopefully some of that was useful. :)

    ReplyDelete
  87. This is extremely helpful. I really love the fact that so many of you take the time to inform us on something important like this. This has been a great learning experience, not just for me but for others.

    @Anonymous 6:44 I really appreciate the advice in Part 3! Right now I'm more concentrated with developing my craft than anything else, but I will definetely be taking this advice once that time comes around when I think it's ready for submission.

    ReplyDelete
  88. I think she should start a big internet row so that her publisher will be forced by popular opinion to follow her lead...and for that matter leak Phantom's original manuscript liberally.

    ReplyDelete
  89. @pathmage why now? why a year after the fact? that's a little late, imho.

    ReplyDelete
  90. @pathmage- I agree with Mari. It already happened about a year ago but Harper didn't budge. The result - loss of sales from unsatisfied readers. I think the best way for fans to help LJ is to buy the books she has published with Simon & Schuster and whatever else she publishes in the future. If you see a HarperTeen book that says "Created by L.J Smith" chances are she didn't write it.

    ReplyDelete
  91. I'm actually really mad about this. I would get if they did this back when it started, but it's sucha big thing now, and L.J. Smith is, to me, the creator of modern vampires (sorry I haven't read Anne Rice). I don't agree with this at all and I'm furious at HarperCollins right now, and they were my dream publisher. Hate this so much.

    ReplyDelete
  92. That's awful. I had no idea that could happen. Good thing she has such a long list of successes. I'm sure another publisher will snap her up and it won't be "for hire".

    ReplyDelete
  93. Jump to Harlan Ellison mode. Do other work, ensure your financial security, and sue them insistently over the next 30 years.

    They may actually break.

    ReplyDelete
  94. I would sue,thensue to have it taken off the air ....even though they ARE my favs.

    ReplyDelete
  95. Sad, but that's how it is unfortunately. It even happened to bigger titles. When PIXAR & Disney could not agree on terms to renew their contract, Disney went on to create a Toy Story 3 by them selves (their cheap straight to video one), and I even heard Tom Hanks said he won't do it if Disney takes over.

    PIXAR guys were devastated. Then Disney acquired PIXAR, assigned John Lasseter the animation, and first thing was to shut the Circle 7 Studio in Disney that was handling the project, taking matters in their own hands, in 2010 they brought us the best animated movie ever I like to argue.

    So even though the company holds the right, being stubborn at the series and fans expense is pretty dull.

    ReplyDelete
  96. I think she should continue her books. Call them something else and self publish!!! Her followers will follow her. Her name is still her name and she can fight it with fans. Good Luck!!!! :)

    ReplyDelete
  97. I'm not a fan of the series or anything, but this is another disgusting example of modern copyright.

    I suspect that in the early nineties, copyright knowledge wasn't nearly as widespread as it is now. While cynicism protects us now, that doesn't help authors who fell into cutthroat traps like these.

    And they say that copyright is to protect the original content creators. I guess in this case, the organization who puts the choke collar on counts as the content creator. Just sad.

    ReplyDelete
  98. @HarmoniousBorealis - but it's not her original creative content AND copyright hasn't changed that much since the '90s. this series belongs to the publisher.

    ReplyDelete
  99. Alloy were the ones who decided to "fire" L.J. Smith. However, HarperCollins went along with it and are equally to blame. There isn't anything that L.J. Smith can do about it. She tried everything to prevent/reverse their decision. As a dedicated fan, I'm boycotting all of the ghostwritten books. It may not accomplish anything, but I'm not giving my money to support companies that are willing to treat an author like this. Plus, they treated us fans like we are a bunch of idiots and would even notice. If they are so proud of their damn decision then why do they still use L.J. Smith's name?

    I just also want to make it clear that the awful "work for hire" contracts only apply to The Vampire Diaries and The Secret Circle. L.J. Smith has also Written The Night of the Solstice, Heart of Valor, Dark Visions trilogy, The Forbidden Game trilogy, and 9 books in the Night World series. These books are absolutely amazing and L.J. Smith owns full rights to them all. They are published by a different publisher, too.

    ReplyDelete
  100. I did note that your blog shows that you are young, and so my posts based on this issue are not personally about you, but about how to train to enter the writing profession, what to expect, and how to maneuver into a position where you can negotiate from strength.

    Those interested should read up on the trademark and copyright history of "Superman" and other movie Icons from the early days.

    Originally, actors did not get "residuals" -- they didn't get paid every time a film was shown. Then came TV, and reruns, and actors revolved, marched in union picket lines, and won a % payment every time a film they are in is shown on TV. At that point, the number of commercials inserted in films went up (where else would they get the money to pay?)

    Every new technology has smashed the creative artists that the business and marketing people use to create the product they market. Right now, skirmish lines are being drawn again. You've fingered one of the jig-jags in that skirmish line, the "work for hire" provision of the 1970's revamping of the copyright laws.

    I believe your post shows brilliance and a huge potential as a writer. But it also points up the sore need for people to learn about the 1970's, and how well-meaning actions of that time, rooted in an understanding of the technology shift between 1920 and 1960, are shaping the skirmish lines today.

    Artists (writers, actors, animators, film makers) can't win this battle if we don't know what the core of the battle is about.

    What may happen is that, without understanding the import of the impact of the new technologies, the well meaning and morally correct actions may create an even worse problem for artists working in the world that will exist 40 years hence.

    So boring as it is, the history lesson is necessary, but I'm not the one to teach that lesson!

    I'm a science fiction writer, a futurologist, and my whole focus is on that world that will exist 40 years hence, and more.

    You do not deserve to be bashed for bringing this point to the surface. You deserve to be celebrated.

    But I for one am crushed that your taste for Vampire fiction has abated, because I write Vampire stories, novels, and now I've just turned in an anthology of Vampire stories by writers of Vampire fanfic who have gone pro with original universe stories.

    Of course, I also write many other sorts of novels, so maybe you'll find one you do enjoy. House of Zeor might be a likely candidate. Or if you like doctor novels, try Unto Zeor, Forever.

    ReplyDelete
  101. It's so sad Alloy Entertainment felt the need to do this to her other series. Seriously? Didn't they learn anything from the first time they did this. Nobody's reading this book. Literally nobody. -__-

    ReplyDelete
  102. Wow, oh, wow. This is terrible. Poor Lisa! I'd be hurt and heartbroken...

    ~Sherry

    Check out my Books!

    ReplyDelete
  103. I found your blog through H.L. Reasby's blog. Wow. I had no idea that most of this even went on or could go on when you became an author. Thanks for the heads-up. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  104. Alloy Entertainment fired her, not HarperCollins. Alloy owned the copyrights, HarperCollins is just the publisher.

    ReplyDelete
  105. @Anon 6:25

    I believe that has already been established here. We are discussing the book packagers, not really the publisher. Even so I still do question the integrity of the publisher because ultimately they make the final decisions about whether a book is to be published or not. It wasn't even part of the main series; if was some sort of a spin off. As I don't have very much information I can't really blame the publisher for any of this really. I still buy HarperbCollins books and enjoy them. The only books I will no longer bother with are the ghostwritten ones.

    ReplyDelete
  106. this is horrible L.J smith is one of my favourite authors and I have read every single one of her books, it is so unfair to fire her after she has written so many books for them and you cant replicate the way she writes no matter how hard you try

    ReplyDelete
  107. Couldn't agree with you more Beth.

    ReplyDelete
  108. We are a group of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our
    community. Your website provided us with valuable information to
    work on. You've done an impressive job and our entire community will be grateful to you.
    Also visit my web page direct download movies

    ReplyDelete
  109. Very good blog! Do you have any helpful hints for aspiring writers?
    I'm hoping to start my own site soon but I'm a little lost on everything.
    Would you suggest starting with a free platform like Wordpress
    or go for a paid option? There are so many
    choices out there that I'm totally overwhelmed .. Any suggestions? Appreciate it!
    Feel free to surf my weblog ... piano lessons

    ReplyDelete
  110. Admiring the dedication you put into your blog and detailed information you offer.

    It's good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn't the same unwanted rehashed material.
    Fantastic read! I've saved your site and I'm including your RSS
    feeds to my Google account.
    My web site - amphora tobacco

    ReplyDelete
  111. Heya i am for the first time here. I found this board and I find It really useful & it helped me out a lot.

    I hope to give something back and aid others like you aided me.
    Here is my blog post : old holborn

    ReplyDelete
  112. After going over a few of the blog articles on your blog, I honestly like your way
    of writing a blog. I book marked it to my bookmark site list and will be
    checking back in the near future. Please check out my web site too and
    tell me how you feel.
    Here is my web site borkum riff

    ReplyDelete
  113. I was able to find good information from your blog articles.
    My website ; mac baren

    ReplyDelete
  114. It's awesome to visit this site and reading the views of all mates on the topic of this piece of writing, while I am also keen of getting know-how.
    Here is my site ... van nelle

    ReplyDelete
  115. I couldn't refrain from commenting. Well written!
    Review my page - www.yourtobaccosstore.com

    ReplyDelete
  116. attractive journal web themes http://realCasinoonline.blogspot.com best online casino

    ReplyDelete
  117. Everything is very open with a very clear clarification of
    the issues. It was really informative. Your site is useful.
    Thank you for sharing!
    Also visit my weblog diet plans that work

    ReplyDelete
  118. Incredible quest there. What οccurred after? Good luсκ!
    Take a look at my web blog : ipad tilbud

    ReplyDelete
  119. My brother suggested I might like this web site.
    He was entirely right. This put up truly made my day.
    You cann't imagine just how a lot time I had spent for this info! Thanks!

    Here is my web site Rachele

    ReplyDelete
  120. Nice blоg here! Аlso your ωebsite loads up
    fast! What host are you using? Can I get your affiliatе
    linκ to your host? I ωish my web sіte loaded up as fаѕt as yourѕ lоl

    Here is my websitе :: Get More Information

    ReplyDelete
  121. I really likе іt whеn peoplе comе togethеr аnd shаre thoughts.
    Great blog, stick ωіth it!

    Fеel frеe to surf tο my hοmepage ::
    http://sickseo.co.uk/off-page-seo.html

    ReplyDelete
  122. you're truly a just right webmaster. The site loading speed is amazing. It kind of feels that you are doing any distinctive trick. Also, The contents are masterwork. you've реrformеd а magnіfiсent рroсеss on this subject!


    Here іs my web ρаgе :
    : www.pasuruancity.com

    ReplyDelete
  123. Wοw, incrediblе blog layout! How long have
    you beеn blogging fοr? yοu make blogging
    look eаѕy. The оverall loοk of your wеb site is excеllent, аs
    wеll aѕ the content!

    Feel freе to vіsit my website -
    weight loss vancouver

    ReplyDelete
  124. A baby downstairs to the store to buy drinks. The shopkeeper gave him a bottle of, then the child says no money.buy rs goldThe shopkeeper is angrily threatened:"Don't have the money to your mother!" The child was frightened out of bottle caps are off the ground. Pick up a see: come again a bottle of! So the bottle cap, gave it to the owner, walked happily.buy wow goldLeave the owner to choose a suitable text book with a clueless look on his face.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts with Thumbnails